Sunday I had my first full arrest. The call went out as a patient unresponsive. Halfway down the winding dirt road that led us to the house they said 'full arrest'.
When I first started running I would spend my time in the back of the bus just trying to breathe and dissipate the burning in my lungs that came just after the tone-inspired adrenaline dump. My heart would pound in my ears over the simplest call; just being in there banging and swaying was enough. Lately I find myself in nearly a trance. I breathe. I think "what will I need?". I pull bags out of storage bins. Look through them. Get gloves on. Review the order of what will need to be done. Somewhere down inside my old panicked self channels the family's anxiousness.
We arrive and several relatives are standing on the porch. I am sorry to say I don't even remember what they looked like. I was focused on backboard, AED, oxygen, getting stretcher into house. Patient. CPR had been in progress for some time and it was obvious that it was too late. His tiny beeswax-yellow legs peeked out of a plaid blanket. Some well meaning friend was doing chest compressions on the bed, which meant nothing was really happening. (You need to be on a HARD surface or don't bother.) Just the same, we worked on him, worked on him all the way to the hospital. I came off the back step bagging him the whole way just like on TV. And as soon as we got to the curtain area the doctor looked at him and said 'Stop'. Such an odd feeling; even though I knew what the outcome would be I were surprised to realize that I harbored some tiny expectation that our efforts might be doing something. I felt like a dog running across the yard on a run that suddenly comes to the end of the line and stops short.
They got all the wires and tubes out and covered him up to the neck in a soft white blanket. I was still bringing in equipment when the nurse herded the kids and grandkids together and told them it was over. I crept away; I remember the EMTs in my own life; once the crisis was over I didn't want to see them again.
So that was the first one. There will be more.